Home Indiana News Lt. Gov. Crouch celebrates reading awards in North Webster

Lt. Gov. Crouch celebrates reading awards in North Webster

By David Slone

NORTH WEBSTER – Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch stopped by North Webster Elementary School Thursday morning to not only talk about the importance of reading, but also to present some awards, including a special one to a student.

Her visit coincided with the school’s awards program and fifth-grade graduation.

Operation Read CEO DeeAnna Muraski explained, “We decided to have this Book Boogie program, which is a reading incentive program for the North Webster Elementary School. So we’re very excited about that.”

She introduced Crouch, who helped award the top two readers in the Book Boogie program, as well as talked about the importance of literacy and present a special award from the lieutenant governor’s office.

On literacy, Crouch said, “The importance of reading, we all know, is absolutely critical in a young child’s life because if you can’t read, you’re going to struggle through school and you’re going to struggle through life.”

She talked about how a person needs to know how to read in order to drive a vehicle and for many jobs like firefighters, teachers and influencers.

“You have to be able to read to be able to move forward in life. And your parents know that, that’s why they’re here because they know how important school is and they know how important it is that you know how to read. So Operation Read USA is so important because it helps to promote that ability to read to be successful in life. And the Book Boogie program, which awards you and recognizes you for the amount of pages you read and the amount of books that you read, and your parents know how important that is, and that’s why they’re here and they’re encouraging you. So remember, whatever you do in life, continue to read, because when you read, you learn things and you have knowledge and knowledge is power, and that is how you move forward in life,” Crouch said.

She thanked the parents for attending the awards program and supporting their children. She told them that the education their children receive will determine how successful they are in life.

Muraski thanked Crouch, along with Operation Read’s board of directors, volunteers, North Webster Principal Lee Snider, Leslie Tharp the librarian, all the teachers who encouraged reading and the students and parents. She said the program was funded by Operation Read and grants from Teachers Credit Union and Kosciusko Endowment Youth Services (KEYS).

Muraski then announced the second-place Book Boogie winner, who read the second-most pages, was Megan Menzie. She received the Guinness Book of World Records 2023, Danica McKellar’s “The Times Machine” book, The Met Claude Monet book, the 2023 Top Reader Brag Tag, the special edition Barnes & Noble book bag, a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a Jetson Mojo All Terrain Hoverboard.

The first-place Book Boogie winner, who read the most pages, was Brooklyn Heimann. She received the classic collectible special edition of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 12-Story Collection,” “The Times Machine,” “Ella in the Garden of Giverny” book, 2023 Top Reader Brag Tag, special edition Barnes & Noble book bag, $50 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 Ritters Frozen Custard Shop gift card and a Jetson Mojo All Terrain Hoverboard.

The final award Muraski presented was to a teacher-staff member who read the most pages, and it was presented to Amy Hill. She received a special edition Barnes & Noble book bag, a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card, Edgar Degas Small Dancer bookmark, Hearth and Home cozy blanket, a Sunshine coffee mug, a $25 River Coffeehouse gift card and a $250 Amazon gift card.

Crouch and Operation Read Board member Diana Scheele presented the prizes to the three winners.

Alex Hall, from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation and representing the Kosciusko Endowment Youth Services, reported the number of books read by North Webster Elementary School was 12,102 and the total number of pages read was 545,308.

“Every student who participated in the program is going to get a Reader Brag Tag,” Muraski said.

Then Crouch presented the surprise award. As lieutenant governor, Crouch said, “I often times have the opportunity to give what I call the Firefly Award to a young student, or a young person, who really has exhibited exceptional qualities in Indiana. It’s called the Brilliant Firefly Award because of a group of students at LaFayette Middle School who decided they wanted to change a law and they wanted to make the firefly the state insect.”

She said the students worked for three to four years with the General Assembly and they finally got a law passed making the firefly Indiana’s state insect.

“But what that really demonstrated was the power of young people to work together to make a difference in the world,” Crouch said. “And so I have today the great honor of recognizing a student with The Lieutenant Governor’s Brilliant Firefly Award.”

The award is bestowed upon young Hoosiers who distinguish themselves by demonstrating outstanding community service, exemplary academic achievement or exceptional leadership in their communities, she said. “The state of Indiana values young Hoosiers who are lighting up Indiana’s future,” Crouch stated, and then announced Megan Menzie was receiving the award for her dedication to academic achievement as well as her participation in Operation Read’s Book Boogie program. “And through the program, Megan exceeded her goal and completed 191 books for a total of 31,000 pages.”

After the awards presentation, Crouch talked about the learning loss during the Covid pandemic, her own love of reading and what she would do to encourage reading if she’s elected Indiana’s next governor in 2024.

“Obviously, there was a learning loss during Covid and so it’s programs like this, like Book Boogie and Operation Read USA, that we’re able to start getting kids back into the habit of reading, which is going to be critical as we move forward because we know that we need to have our children be reading by the third grade and beyond if they’re going to be successful throughout school and throughout life. Because it’s proven that if you can’t read by the third grade, you’re going to struggle through school and struggle through life,” she said.

Crouch said in her spare time she loves to read biographies of presidents. She just finished a biography on John Adams, and she’s reading “1776” by David McCullough.

As lieutenant governor, she’s always reading something for the job, “but then, to be able to read for enjoyment is how I end up unwinding and relaxing at the end of the day,” she said.

Asked how she would continue to promote reading if elected governor, Crouch said, “We will put, certainly, more resources into reading and to being able to get our children to read. I’m very proud of the fact that the Lilly Foundation partnered with the Department of Education with a grant of $61 million this past summer to be able to focus on tutors and being able to focus on getting our children to read by the third grade. And the goal is to be able to have a 95% pass rate of IREAD-3 by 2027. So, obviously, we have a lot more work to do but we know it’s absolutely critical for the future of Indiana because these children today are the ones who are going to be leading us tomorrow.”